7 Biggest Health Hazards Lurking in College Dorms

Posted August 29, 2012

Most colleges usually require that incoming freshmen (or "first-years") live in residential housing, also known as dorms, during their first year at school. Living in a dorm has its benefits: doing so puts you closer to the resources you need while getting acclimated to college, and allows you to become a part of a large and diverse community. But communal living in a dorm requires you to be proactive when it comes to maintaining your good health. Here are seven potential hazards to your health that dorm residents, no matter what their age, should be aware of.

  1. Mold:

    Mold is not uncommon in older buildings, where leakage, flooding, and dampness combined with room-temperature conditions encourages the growth of this fungus. Kitchens and bathrooms, both typically messy areas in dorms, are especially susceptible to mold growth. Curtains and rugs can also contain mold. Allergic reactions, including eye, nose, and throat irritation, may occur due to exposure to mold. Long-term exposure can lead to more serious health issues. If you suspect or smell mold, bring this to the attention of a Resident Advisor or your college’s housing or facilities services.

  2. Bedbugs:

    Bedbugs are tiny little blood-sucking pests that love clutter and old mattresses. They’re transient creatures, and can travel from dorm room to dorm room, or arrive with that used piece of furniture you found on the street. Before putting your sheets on your bed in your dorm, inspect the mattress for stains and spots. Keep your sheets as clean and your room as clutter-free as possible. If you wake up with little bite marks on your stomach, don’t panic, but alert Housing Services as soon as possible.

  3. Meningitis:

    While meningitis, an infection that affects the membranes surrounding your brain and spinal cord, is rare, it does exist, and it can kill you. Adolescents and young adults account for 15% of all cases of meningitis, and college life, where your immune system is compromised while living in a germy environment, increases your chance of contracting this disease. Vaccines that prevent the disease are available and inexpensive, especially if your parents have health insurance. Take time to learn more about the meningitis vaccines and consider getting one for you and your roommate’s peace of mind.

  4. Mononucleosis:

    Ah, the "kissing disease." Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. Infectious Mononucleosis (or Mono) is a viral disease primarily transmitted from one person to another through saliva, hence its nickname the "kissing disease." Fever, extreme fatigue, and sore throat are all symptoms of mono, and the disease can knock you out for several weeks, even an entire semester. Prevention of this disease is tricky, since those who carry it may not exhibit any symptoms. Simply practicing good hygiene can help, and seeing a physician if you yourself are feeling fatigued or feverish will assist you in a speedier recovery.

  5. STDs:

    To be clear, you cannot contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD) from bed sheets, a toilet seat, or any other inanimate object found in a dorm room. STDs can only be passed through sexual contact. The freedom of life away from home can result in careless, even self-destructive behavior when it comes to sex. Not surprisingly, each year a high percentage of college students end up infected with common STDs including the human papillomavirus (HPV) and chlamydia. If you’re going to engage in sex, condom use is crucial, not only to prevent pregnancy, but STDs as well. No matter what your sexual orientation is, there are precautions you can take to prevent becoming infected with an STD. Reach out to your college’s Health Services department for information about sex and staying healthy.

  6. Athlete’s Foot:

    This is a relatively benign, but definitely uncomfortable health issue that is easily preventable. Athlete’s Foot is a foot fungus that causes your feet to itch and the skin to crack and even bleed. The fungus grows in warm, wet environments such as locker rooms or your floor’s bathroom and showers. As a precaution, wear flip-flops whenever you head to the bathroom to shower, and dry your feet thoroughly before pulling on a pair of socks and your shoes.

  7. Sleep Deprivation:

    Your class workload can be overwhelming at times, and staying up all night to study for a test may make some weird kind of sense, given the pressure you may feel to earn a good GPA. But American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that all-nighters actually result in lower GPAs. Instead, try to develop a regular schedule for study and sleep and stick to it as best you can. Dorms can be noisy, especially at night, when students less studious than you may decide to throw a party to test their stereo’s sub-woofer. Reach out to a Resident Advisor or the Public Safety office with any noise complaints. You’re paying tuition, too, and have the right to a decent night of sleep.

Leave a Comment